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A Khanty huntress – the star of «The Spirit of Fire»

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Why do young people return to their villages after getting an education in the city? How do the Khanty and Mansi people actually live? The film «TANYA. SUMMER. WINTER» by Alexander Avilov that was screened at the festival responds to all such questions of the Spirit of Fire guests. 

 The audience included residents of Khanty-Mansiysk, guests of the festival, a delegation of Indian filmmakers, and honorable representatives of indigenous peoples of the North.

 The Governor of Yugra Natalia Komarova was a special guest at the screening. She talked to the participants and praised the work of the director and the entire film crew.

 Before the screening Alexander Avilov told the audience about making the film. The documentary «TANYA. SUMMER. WINTER» grew out of an eponymous short film in the “Yugra Stories» project. «Today we present one of the five stories, the story about Tanya, a Khanty huntress who lives in the taiga», explained the director. «In her early childhood Tanya was raised by her Khanty grandparents. Her mother and father lived and worked in the city, and she lived in the forest, on the hunting grounds. They taught her everything. In the forest you do everything yourself. You eat what you catch, you wear what you sew, you live in what you have built. This documentary is about Tanya and her family’s life».

 He also mentioned that the idea to make the “Yugra Stories” was suggested by the Roscongress Foundation. «We decided to make a film about the Yugra indigenous young people. Few people know how Khanty and Mansi actually live. What comes to mind is reindeer breeding, national clothes and living in the chum tent. So we shot five short stories telling why young people prefer to stay in their small towns, settlements, villages and nomad camps.»

 Throughout the winter, summer and autumn of 2022 the crew of “The Yugra Stories» searched for answers to such questions as: Why do twenty-to-thirty-year-old people choose to live in the forest after getting an education in the city? Why do they return to their village to work as a teacher? What motivates them? What makes them raise their children according to their native traditions?

 «We would visit each protagonist and stay with them for two or three weeks and film their everyday life. We did not ask them to do anything special, they are not actors, we just filmed them living, teaching, studying, working, helping each other, hunting and fishing. The film is almost ready,” said Alexander Avilov.

 According to one of the audience members, the Indian director Sarfaraz Alam, «TANYA. SUMMER. WINTER” demonstrates very competent work of the director.

 “It was well-prepared, you can see that they put an effort into planning, because it is very difficult to film in such conditions, without the infrastructure. It’s clear that the director prepared everything very well in advance and chose the protagonists in advance. When people know how to act – that is one thing, but it is more difficult to film ordinary people because they might be shy of the camera, or they might look in the wrong direction or do something wrong. It’s a very difficult job, and it was well done,» the festival guest expressed his professional opinion.

 Maria Sengepova from «The Sun”, the Theatre of the Ob-Ugric Peoples, knows the protagonist very well. In her own words, Tatyana is like another mother to her: “It is a wonderful film, I liked it very much, because it is about my native land. I grew up there. Before starting school I lived there all the time. Tanya and German taught me to write, read, count, everything you can think of. German used to bring notebooks for me with a boat, and Tanya taught me. The way Tanya is shown in the film is very much like her in real life: a genuine, independent, strong woman. Tanya is very kind and vulnerable in real life, but also very strong, wise and good».

 At the end of the screening Alexander Avilov told the audience that the release of “The Yugra Stories» is planned for the spring: «In two or three months you will see the complete “Yugra Stories» and learn what motivates a custodian of ancient Khanty recipes, an aircraft ambulance paramedic, a music teacher, a philosophic reindeer breeder and a modern huntress Tatyana when they choose to live on their native land. We are planning to screen the film at Russian and international film festivals, and we hope to have distribution in Russia».

 «The Yugra Stories” was filmed in the Yugra as part of the cooperation agreement between the District Government and the “Innosocium» Social Development Foundation. “The organisers involved the disctict center «Open Region” that took care of the logistics when we travelled around the district. All the flights, transfers, meetings with the protagonists, so that they knew in advance that we were coming. For example, sometimes the flight was postponed for a day. Our expeditions were quite tough: there were force majeure situations due to fog and rain. «The Open Region” helped us to leave from where we were by land or by air and to get to our destination on time,» said Alexander Avilov.

 The XXI International Debut Film Festival «Spirit of Fire» takes place in Khanty-Mansiysk from March 3 till March 6. This year the festivals presents the best films of directors from Russia and 16 other countries.

 You can find the screenings schedule here: https://clck.ru/33gPXs. Entrance is free.

 The Roscongress Foundation is the Festival’s communication partner.
 Gazprom Neft has been the general partner of the Spirit of Fire since 2007.